The year was 2004, and the music scene in Montreal was booming with the international attention it was receiving due, in majority, to the rise of indie-rockers Arcade Fire. The scene once dominated by post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor would now see a new successor and an influx of musicians wanting their own acclaim. But musicians weren’t the only ones to seize this opportunity. There was also a need for accompanying support for these artists: record labels, management, promotion…
In came Bonsound, a music company founded in October 2004 by Gourmet Délice, Jean-Christian Aubry and Yanick Masse, to serve as an artist management company, a record label, a booking agency, a concert promoter and a promotion/publicity agency. The acclaimed company has worked with Montreal mainstays ranging from Malajube to DJ Champion, as well as local favourites Radio Radio and Milk & Bone. We sat down with founders Gourmet Délice and Jean-Christian Aubry to talk about the inception of Bonsound, their recipe for success, and how far the ever-evolving Montreal music scene has come.
“We were everything for them,” says Gourmet as he reminisces about the initial stages of Bonsound and the first two artists they signed: Malajube and DJ Champion. Although not a full-fledged record label at the time, they were still able to offer management as well as booking and PR services. Created out of necessity, Bonsound’s founders strived to provide support for artists of a more underground nature. “We just wanted to have a company to offer services that were not given to that type of artist,” says Jean-Christian.
Bonsound, which will celebrate its eleventh birthday this year, sprung from humble beginnings. Starting off as an artist management company, Bonsound then broadened its scope to act as a record label. Eventually they went on to develop two subsidiaries: Bonsound Concerts, which primarily acts as an event promoter for Montreal or other countries, and Bonsound Promo, a promotion agency for projects that aren’t related to Bonsound. Since then, it has become a major player in the local Montreal music scene, not only in developing the “Montreal sound” but–with the help of others–forging ahead in shaping a new sound entirely.
Jean-Christian credits previous artists and music companies on laying the groundwork to help propel them to where they are now. “Constellation Records and all the people that make up the ‘Montreal sound’: Arcade Fire, Godspeed [You! Black Emperor], La Sala Rossa, Casa Del Popolo. That scene in particular has done a lot of work for us to be able to grow.” Gourmet adds: “I mean, you just have to look at what was there before […] It’s all the little things people do… you don’t know what you’re building, but it builds itself.”
However, Gourmet remembers that things weren’t always so easy. “We started when there was a panic with all the internet stuff — downloading and all that,” he explains. Fortunately, they recognized the need to organize themselves around that new reality, which allowed for adaptability and organic growth despite changes to the industry.
With such a big role in Montreal’s music industry, the founders of Bonsound have plenty of perspective on the current local music scene. “I’d say the main change in the past ten or twelve years is the amount of shows,” says Gourmet. “The industry is more organized,” adds Jean-Christian. “When we started […] there were no small companies like us. Now you have us, Dare to Care, and a lot of others.” And why have so many musicians flocked to Montreal to make music? Jean-Christian is swift to answer: “Cheap rent!” Funny, but true.
In closing our talk, Jean-Christian makes it clear that Bonsound strives to support artists who are equally talented live as they are in the studio, but above all, the artists must be in it for the long haul and they must possess a certain set of values. “The main reason for what [they’re] doing must be for the love of music,” he says.
Bonsound is not without their own set of values, either. Gourmet asserts: “We wrote our philosophy down years ago and the first thing we decided to write down was that we want to have fun.” Jean-Christian shakes his head in agreement, adding, “that’s the main goal.” This so-called formula for success may have contributed to their countless accolades over the years, but Gourmet—shrugging off questions surrounding their accomplishments—states modestly: “We still don’t know what we’re doing.”
“I think that one of the most important things is the fact that we complement each other very well,” says Gourmet. Even though the three founders all have their areas of expertise, Yanick remains more on the live side of things, Jean-Christian more in the label world, and Gourmet on the business development side, with each of them also managing bands signed to the label on their own. “We leave the ego at the door… most of the time,” Gourmet lets out with a laugh. “[Bonsound] is really a collective thing, a team effort. I’m pretty sure it’s one of the main reasons we’re making it somehow.”
As the music scene quickly evolves, Bonsound is ready, armed with an arsenal of music production and promotion services. In a scene that’s spit out waves of musicians, they aren’t looking to dish out the next Arcade Fire–however great that would certainly be–but to provide security and a home for musicians who share a common thread: a love of music, and a love of bon sound.